Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM): • Is radiation that exists naturally in the environment • Is also known as background radiation • Has many sources, such as soil and rocks • Can be found in things like tap water, cigarettes, and smoke detectors
Radiation becomes dangerous when it becomes concentrated in some way by human activity. Technically enhanced NORM (TENORM) is radioactive material disturbed and concentrated by human activities, such as drilling for oil. TENORM is often used interchangeablywith NORM.
NORM is a serious health risk because high levels of radiation can cause cancer. You must protect yourself when you work in an area contaminated with NORM. NORM exposure mostly happens through inhalation or ingestion.
There are two types of exposures to radiation, acute and chronic: • Acute exposure is when a very large amount of radiation is suddenly released • Chronic exposure is exposure to low levels of radioactivity over a long period of time
Workers in the oil and gas industry encounter NORM when they tap NORM deposits within shale. NORM can be produced as waste water and can take the form of scale buildup in: • Tubulars • Wellheads • Flowlines • Pits • Drill pipes
NORM is typically encountered at older manufacturing centers with old equipment and abandoned wells. NORM contamination may spread when the old equipment is recycled as scrap metal.
The three most basic ways to protect yourself from radiation include time, distance, and shielding:
Good work practices and engineering controls that can be used to protect workers from harmful radiation include: • Using filtered ventilation via high-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) filters • Posting radioactive material signs around restricted areas to keep unauthorized personnel out • Monitoring workers’ occupational dose intake to make sure they are not close to the occupational dose limit
Radiation areas will be boldly labeled with radioactive materials (RAM) signs. When you see an area with a RAM sign, do not eat or drink in that area.
Exposureto NORM must be kept as low as is reasonably achievable. Your company should have a radiation protection program outlined in its policies and procedures.
Jobsites should be monitored for radiation before work begins. Monitorthe air and equipment to create a baseline of radioactivity. If any source of radioactivity is found, immediately report the source to your supervisor.
If significant levels of NORM are found, workers should be medically evaluated to determine their existing occupational dose of radiation.
Respiratory protection may be needed in NORM-contaminated areas if engineering controls cannot keep the airborne radioactivity levels below the exposure limits.
Two types of respirators may be used when dealing with NORM: • Half-face respirators with HEPA cartridges • Supplied air respirators (SARs)
Wear appropriate PPE for the job, such as gloves, aprons, and hard hats. If appropriate PPE is unavailable or damaged in any way, do not work in the restricted area.
NORM is a serious health risk to workers in the oil and gas industry. You must protect yourself when you work in an area contaminated with NORM. Exposure to NORM must be kept as low as is reasonably achievable. Your company should have a radiation protection program outlined in its policies and procedures.